Naruto Shippuden Episode 446
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 446 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Ever since the second Ninja Scrolls arc began, Naruto Shippuden has gradually transitioned from “boring” to “ambitiously bad” with shades of “unintentionally funny.” While this is definitely faint praise, it's about the nicest thing I can say about the show in its current state. Judging from what transpired this week and the latest post-credits preview, Jiraiya's Ninja Scrolls is dead-set on presenting a slapdash re-imagining of every major story arc from the actual canon. I don't think the adage “haste makes waste” has ever been more applicable.
Once again dispensing with the laughably meta framing device, this episode opens with Naruto, Neji, and Shikamaru arriving at Orochimaru's hideout with evil versions of Anko and Sai in hot pursuit. In an effort to clear a path for Naruto to pursue Sasuke, Neji keeps Anko busy while Shikamaru takes on Sai. Since we've never actually seen these particular characters engage one another in combat, I'm almost tempted to give the show points for originality. Unfortunately, the audience is only shown a few seconds of each skirmish before the focus shifts back to our sweat-suited protagonist. Before he can crash Sasuke and Orochimaru's rooftop rendezvous, Naruto is intercepted by the Foundation Anbu version of Yamato, who binds our hero with his wood. However, Yamato's trap is quickly undone after Naruto summons the Nine Tails' chakra and breaks free.
By the time Naruto reaches the rooftop, Sasuke has already been endowed with Orochimaru's Cursed Seal of Heaven, enabling him to assume the same demonic form he took on at the end of the Sasuke Retrieval Arc. After his Sage Mode proves ineffective, Naruto once again summons the power of Kurama and goes into Tailed Beast Mode. Again, I'm tempted to award points for originality. Beast Mode Naruto has never fought Cursed Seal Sasuke, so the screenwriters are at least trying to shake things up. However, like this episode's other action sequences, this one is too brief to elicit any real excitement. Plus, Sasuke mastering his new powers mere minutes after receiving the aforementioned seal doesn't make a lot of sense. Just as the super-powered rivals are about to deal decisive blows to one another, Itachi, who arrived on the scene as a murder of crows, appears between the boys and is fatally wounded by his little brother. After saying a hurried goodbye to Sasuke, the elder Uchiha assumes spirit form and departs from the corporeal world, leaving no physical body behind. (That was certainly considerate of him.) Fortunately, with Itachi's death out of the way, we won't have to sit through a tepid re-imagining of the Itachi Pursuit Mission Arc. The episode ends with a grief-stricken and guilt-riddled Sasuke wandering aimlessly through the surrounding woods.
Throughout the episode, we're told multiple times that Naruto has to be the one to save Sasuke because of their apparent friendship, so Naruto tries to save Sasuke through the power of love. (In other words, “talking thine enemy into submission,” as is often the case with the Gospel of Uzumaki.) However, since animation is a visual medium, actions speak louder than words, and prior to this latest installment, the Ninja Scrolls world hasn't given us any indication that these two are anything but bitter rivals. Also, viewers familiar with the source material will recognize hackneyed allusions to the manga's closing chapters in Naruto and Sasuke's exchange toward the end of the episode. This marks the first time Jiraiya's Ninja Scrolls has re-imagined an event that has yet to take place in the anime adaptation. (At this rate, it may be 2026 before we see it in animated form.) Evidently, the Pervy Sage possessed the power to see into the future.
When important story arcs are condensed into compact retellings, it's virtually impossible to convey the same sense of character development and hit the same emotional beats. Unfortunately, the creative minds behind Naruto Shippuden either don't realize this or simply don't care. What they've given us is laughable instead of memorable, shallow instead of moving. Although the re-imagined Sasuke Retrieval Arc is now concluded, we still have a lot more ground to retread before moving on to the next seemingly endless chunk of filler.
Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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